The Economic Progress Institute (EPI), based on data released by the US Census Bureau, found that Rhode Island’s poverty rate remained unchanged in 2014, the highest rate in New England.
Among EPI’s key findings, according to Juan Espinoza, Communications and Outreach Associate, are:
One in seven Rhode Islanders live in poverty.
Rhode Island has the highest poverty rate of all the New England states, and ranks 24th in the country.
One in ten white Rhode Islanders live in poverty.
More than one in five African Americans in Rhode Island are poor—twice the rate of white Rhode Islanders
Nearly one in three Latinos in Rhode Island are poor—three times the rate of white Rhode Islanders.
“It is disturbing that so many Rhode Islanders continue to live in poverty.” said Kate Brewster, executive director of the Economic Progress Institute, in a statement. “While there is certainly no silver bullet to address this crisis, one action lawmakers should take to help struggling working families is to continue to increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit. This would put more money in the hands of people working at low-wage jobs by letting them keep more of what they earn and would help lift their families above the poverty line.”
According to EPI, “Rhode Island lawmakers increased the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit last year to 12.5 percent of the federal credit from 10 percent. This is expected to put an additional $6 million back in the pockets of over 80,000 working families who live in every city and town in the state. Neighboring states already do more to help low-wage workers through the EITC. Connecticut offers a 27.5 percent state credit and Massachusetts recently increased its state credit to 23 percent. A recent study, documented in the book It’s Not Like I’m Poor, demonstrates that families receiving the tax credit spend it wisely: they pay current bills, including rent, utilities and groceries; they pay off debt; and they invest in their future, for example, by moving to a better neighborhood. Along with helping families get ahead, these purchases and payments boost the local economy.”
The one bright spot is that “the share of Rhode Islanders without health insurance coverage fell sharply from 11.6 percent in 2013 to 7.4 percent in 2014, ranking RI 9th best in the country for having insured residents.” EPI reports that, “recent data released by Healthsource RI shows that the uninsured rate in Rhode Island is even lower in 2015.”